After four weeks of in-person classes at Northeast Mississippi Community College, the feeling among administrators is that the plan formulated over the summer to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 on campus is working.
While the number of positive cases reported to college officials during the first week warranted quarantining several members of the Booneville campus community, Northeast president Dr. Ricky G. Ford said neither he nor his staff was surprised.
“As I said before, we knew there would be cases once we opened campus for in-person instruction,” Ford said. “That’s the very reason we worked so hard during the summer to develop plans to handle them in compliance with all CDC guidelines. In fact, what we have in place goes beyond what is required.
“We felt it was so important to give our students the opportunity to get back on campus and in the classroom, we were determined to be prepared. However, every student also has the choice to build an all online schedule if they are more comfortable at home.
“So we are working through our plans and will continue to do so.”
Each morning starting at 6 a.m., students and employees respond to an automated screening form to determine if they are clear to come to class/campus or if they need to self-isolate. Responses to the screening form are monitored and students and employees who respond that they have symptoms of, exposure to, or diagnosis of COVID-19 will receive a follow-up phone call to confirm results and check-up on the health and well-being of the student or employee.
As a precaution, if a student from a specific class or group of students tests positive, the college will quarantine the entire class/group of students as well as the instructor/coach. Instruction and further communication with those students and faculty/staff members will be conducted virtually for a period of two weeks.
If a dorm student needs to self-isolate, separate rooms are designated for those quarantine needs, however students are certainly allowed to go home. For those under quarantine on campus, instruction is available online and meals are delivered.
According to college officials,18 dorm rooms are designated as quarantine rooms, but at no point during the semester have those rooms been filled to capacity.
Positive cases reported have been relatively small at Northeast and as adhering to the guidelines and restrictions put in place to fight COVID-19 become more and more normal for the approximately 3,500 people on campus each day, the number of those quarantined is reduced.
President Ford believes progress is being made, but the avid runner says “it’s a jog, not a sprint” back to any sense of the normal routine of which everyone is accustomed.
“Classes are going well, but I think it will be quite some time before we get ‘back to normal’,” Ford said.
“Students will play a major role in the amount of success we have fighting the virus. We have to be diligent in educating them on gathering in small numbers, washing their hands several times a day and to wear a mask and wear it properly. Those are the biggest things we can all do.”